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Boy held in Alabama bunker celebrates release -- and 6th birthday

February 06, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The child who was held hostage in Alabama celebrated his sixth birthday at home on Wednesday, recuperating from his almost weeklong ordeal as a hostage.

Ethan, who was freed from an underground bunker on Monday, was described by family and officials as physically unharmed.

For almost a week, he was held captive in a 6-foot-by-8-foot shelter, playing with toys that officials sent in through a 4-inch PVC pipe. His neighbors were still working out how to celebrate his birthday and some were raising money to send the child to Disney World.

But the emotional release was obvious to all.

“I can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again,” said his mother in a prepared statement released on Tuesday after she was reunited with her son. “Ethan is safe and back in my arms -- and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on Earth.”

Midland City held a vigil at Napier Field Town Hall on Tuesday night, which turned into a celebration. There, children signed an oversized card. “Happy 6th Birthday Ethan,” it said.

More than 1,200 other cards came in from across the nation, said Philip Parker, principal of Midland City Elementary.

“We are just looking forward to the time that he can come back in and we can wrap our arms around him and tell him we love him,” Parker told reporters.

Even as the celebrations continued, officials continued their investigation of the underground bunker and surrounding property owned by Jimmy Lee Dykes, the man who abducted Ethan on Jan. 29 from a school bus. Dykes, 65, killed the school bus driver, Charles Poland Jr. in the attack.

Authorities have yet to give all of the details of what happened during Monday’s raid, but officials have said that Dykes was shot several times during what was described as a firefight.  An autopsy is pending and an official shooting team will examine how the raid was conducted.

An FBI statement late Tuesday said Dykes had planted an explosive device in the ventilation pipe that was the lifeline between the shelter and officials. The suspect also placed another explosive device inside the bunker, the FBI said.

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